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The best photo-editing software in 2022

Laptop showing best photo-editing software
(Image credit: Mylene Tremoyet via Unsplash)

The best photo-editing software is a field where things are advancing like never before. The introduction of smart AI features into image-editing programs has turbo-charged the field; Adobe's 'Project Sensei' movement is spearheading it, but we're seeing it across the board. Tasks that used to take up hours of a photo-editor's time can now be accomplished with the click of a button. So there's never been a better time to jump on board. 

Picking the best photo editing software in 2022 means sifting through quite a few options. It's not just Photoshop these days – there are loads of options, some paid-for, some free. There are simple programs designed for straightforward tweaks to images, and highly complex tools made for professional image editors, and everything in between. 

We've put together this guide to help you sort through the various options and figure out which is the right photo-editing program for you. We've included options for a range of budgets and operating systems, as well as programs that will work on your phone or tablet (though if this is your main interest, check out our guide to the best photo apps.) We've included many programs that we've fully tested and reviewed, and we've used the findings from these reviews to inform our comments in the guide.

Once you've chosen your program, you may also want to check out our guide the best laptops for photo editing too. But for now, let's dive into the best photo-editing software.

Top 3: best photo-editing software

Photoshop:
Photoshop is the best photo editing software overall, and a seven-day trial lets you try the latest release for free. There's no obligation to buy, but you can convert to a paid subscription during the trial or after.

Affinity Photo:
This very capable Photoshop alternative from Serif comes at a one-off price; no subscription needed. This photo editing software provides impressive tools for digital painting, raw editing, retouching and more. 

PhotoDirector 365:
CyberLink PhotoDirector 365 offers all the features you'd expect from a top photo editing tool at a very reasonable price. A great way to get high-level editing features such as levels and colour adjustment for less.

The best photo editing software right now

Photos of a woman and a lion being composited in Photoshop

(Image credit: Adobe)
The best photo editing software overall.

Specifications

Platform: Windows, MacOS, iOS (iPad only)
Developer: Adobe
Price: From $9.98/£9.98 per month

Reasons to buy

+
Unbeatable features
+
Clever AI time-savers
+
iPad version available

Reasons to avoid

-
Requires subscription
-
Not the simplest to use

There's a reason that the name Photoshop has because synonymous with digital image editing. It is quite simply the best piece of photo-editing software around, with features and functionality that far exceed any competitors. Adobe has been boosting Photoshop extensively with each iteration, and lately we've seen more and more AI-powered tools that make it even more slick and streamlined. 

Now, you can smooth over skin, remove artefacts, even edit facial expressions and much more, all with the touch of a button. In our full Photoshop 2022 review, we were hugely impressed with the neural filters and how streamlined they are. We particularly appreciate the Skin Smoothing functionality for portrait shooters, as well as the Super Zoom feature, which lets you crop right into a specific part of an image, then resizes the result with automatically filled-in detail. 

Photoshop can also be further enhanced beyond what's in the initial interface – check out our guides to the best free Photoshop brushes and free Photoshop actions available online for ways you can customise and expand your Photoshop capabilities. The software also synergises well with other Adobe offerings – commercial photographers will pair it with Lightroom for smooth image catalogue management, while a motion designer would pair it with After Effects. Which apps you plan to use will affect which Adobe Creative Cloud subscription plan you go for – which is another thing worth mentioning. You can only get Photoshop via subscription, meaning you're on the hook for payments for as long as you use the program. Hunting for the best Adobe Creative Cloud discounts can be a good way to soften the blow a bit. 

For more information, read our Photoshop 2022 review, and check out the best Photoshop tutorials. Ready to start? Here's how to download Photoshop.

Portrait of bearded man in hat being edited in Affinity Photo

(Image credit: Serif)

02. Affinity Photo

The best photo editing software that's subscription-free.

Specifications

Platform: Windows, MacOS, iOS (iPad only)
Developer: Serif
Price: $21.99/£19.49 (iPad) / $54.99/£47.99 (desktop)

Reasons to buy

+
One-off fee
+
Comprehensive features
+
Million-plus zoom

Reasons to avoid

-
Not as full-featured as Photoshop

Not everyone wants to pay a monthly stipend just to be able to edit photos. Want to pay a one-off price rather than repeated subscription fees? Then Affinity Photo is where you want to be, rather than Photoshop. It's the best single-purchase photo-editing program you can get right now.

It's not just a cheap equivalent to Photoshop – Affinity Photo is a viable alternative. It's got professional-standard editing features, and can handle RAW editing, HDR Merge, panoramic stitching, focus stacking, batch processing, 360° image editing, non-destructive layers-based editing and more with ease. It can also handle PSD files without an issue, so if you're sick of Photoshop's running costs and want to jump ship, you'll still be able to work with all your in-progress files. 

Affinity Photo is a professional-standard photo editing programme that's cheap and subscription-free. High-end features include RAW editing, HDR merge, panorama stitching, focus stacking, batch processing, .PSD file editing, 360° image editing, a non-destructive layers-based workflow, and smart object support. So while it doesn't include an equivalent to every single feature you'll find in Photoshop, it's pretty darned close, making it exceptional value.

As we noted in our review, Affinity Photo doesn't quite pack in the high-end Photoshop features like its cutting-edge neural filters, but there is still a lot to impress. We particularly rate the Personas, which are essentially customised toolsets for different jobs, designed to put everything you're going to need for particular tasks at your fingertips. 

Affinity Photo is available for Windows, Mac and as a dedicated iPad app. Its maker, Serif, also has a graphic design package () and a desktop publishing app (). As with Adobe's software suite, you can transfer projects between these programs without difficult, making for a smooth workflow. 

Our Affinity Photo review goes into more detail. 

Image of dancer being edited in Photodirector 365

(Image credit: CyberLink)
Standard photo editing software that offers great value.

Specifications

Platform: Windows, MacOS
Developer: CyberLink
Price: $49.99 / £13.99 per month

Reasons to buy

+
Powerful AI features
+
Easy animation effects
+
Inexpensive subscription cost

Reasons to avoid

-
Occasional typos

While Photoshop is a very powerful image-editing tool, it is quite complex, and has a daunting learning curve. Not everyone needs that – some people just want a simple photo-editing interface that's easy to use, and for such people, we'd recommend checking out CyberLink PhotoDirector 365.

In our full review of CyberLink PhotoDirector 365, we were hugely impressed by the various AI-powered features that have been added into the latest version. Landscape photographers in particular may appreciate the AI sky replacement tool, which lets you seamlessly swap out a drab sky in an image for one with a little more drama to it. There's also automatic body shaping, tools for editing skin and faces, as well as lighting and animation effects.

The intuitive interface is easy to get to grips with. It's a little rough around the edges – use it long enough and you'll start to notice little glitches, types and other things that show a slightly lack of polish. But the fundamentals of CyberLink PhotoDirector 365 are strong, and if you want a budget-friendly option for photo editing, this is a great choice. 

For more information, see our CyberLink PhotoDirector 365 review.

Skylum Neo interface featuring a range of photos

(Image credit: Tom May)

04. Luminar NEO

The best photo editing software for beginners.

Specifications

Platform: Windows 10 version 1909 or higher, MacOS 10.14.6 or higher
Developer: Skylum
Price: $79/£59

Reasons to buy

+
Simple interface
+
Super fast
+
Three great AI tools

Reasons to avoid

-
Presets are limited

The new Luminar NEO is ideal for those of you who are used to making the odd tweak in mobile apps like Instagram, but want to want to take your photo editing skills to the next, desktop level. First off, the interface is super easy to use and excels in its intuitive design, and though the more professional photo editing will still be looking at the top three on this list, they may still be interested in the three canny AI tools that Luminar NEO has to offer. 

When we tried it out, we were impressed by the best of these AI tools – the Remove powerlines tool. We tried it out on a dozen photos and it smashed it every time. The next AI tool is Sky Replacement, and when we used this, it was as simple as selecting your chosen sky and then a single click later, you've got the finished image. Lastly, the AI crop tool automatically isolates the subject of the photo and crops it to create a more friendly composition. Overall, well worth the one-off payment for this fun photo editing software. 

Our Luminar NEO review goes into more detail. 

Image of balloon over lake being edited in Luminar AI

(Image credit: Skylum)

05. Luminar AI

The best photo editing software for speed.

Specifications

Platform: Windows, MacOS
Developer: Skylum
Price: $79/£54.99

Reasons to buy

+
Lots of tools
+
Nice AI features
+
Affordable

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited export options

Need to edit your photos as quickly as possible? Skylum Luminar AI is our top choice. This photo editing software is firmly focused on speeding up the process, so photographers can spend less time editing and more time creating. 

As the name suggests, the software uses artificial intelligence to suggest editing options that can enhance photos of different styles. It can suggest the best templates to improve images and has tools that can be used to tweak skies, accents, skin, faces and even eyes. There are specific tools for portraiture, landscapes, fashion, architecture, nature, and black and white photographs. 

At a very reasonable one-off cost, this AI-based software for MacOS and Windows is certainly worth checking out. For more details, check out our tutorial on How to edit photos with Luminar AI.

Image of woman sitting on chair being edited InPixio

(Image credit: InPixio)

06. inPixio Photo Studio 11

Easy photo editing software for a low price.

Specifications

Platform: Windows, MacOS
Developer: inPixio
Price: Regular: $49/£49, Pro: $79/£79

Reasons to buy

+
Simple to use
+
Value for money
+
Includes RAW editing tools

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited photo management tools
-
Sky replacement not always realistic

InPixio Photo Studio is another middleweight photo editing software that's easy to use, and features some clever AI. Currently on version 11, its background eraser and cutout tool are particularly well designed, and there's also a cool sky replacement tool, although the results are not always the most realistic.

With a intuitive interface, this is among the most accessible yet full-featured photo editors for beginners, and makes it easy to perform basic edits very quickly. With the Pro version, you also get inPixio's Photo Maximiser for enlarging, and Photo Focus for sharpening; two job-specific tools that can be used separately.

Image of landscape being edited in Pixlr

(Image credit: Pixlr)

07. Pixlr X / Pixlr E

The best photo editing software based in the browser.

Specifications

Platform: Browser
Developer: Autodesk Inc
Price: Free

Reasons to buy

+
Easy to use
+
Dropbox integration
+
Nothing to download

Reasons to avoid

-
Ads on free version

Want to make edits right in your web browser? Whether you're on a mobile or desktop device, we recommend Pixlr X and its sister app Pixlr E. Both are very easy to use, and there's nothing to download.  

The free plan is perfect if you just want to use these tools occasionally. However, you will have to wait for ads to load, which can slow things down. Alternatively, subscribe to a paid plan and the ads disappear.

Pixlr X allows you to make non-destructive edits to your images, and brilliantly can be used within Dropbox, which makes it a great addition to your toolkit for collaborative work. With a Photoshop-like interface (albeit much simpler) it offers a good range of adjustments and filters. Pixlr E, meanwhile, offers the same classic photo editing tools, with the addition of some extras for the pros.

Image of coastal cliff being edited in Corel

(Image credit: Corel)

08. Corel PaintShop Pro

Affordable photo editing software for Windows.

Specifications

Platform: Windows
Developer: Corel
Price: $79.99/£89.99

Reasons to buy

+
Includes sophisticated tools
+
Subscription-free
+
Affordable

Reasons to avoid

-
Not as powerful as Photoshop

Corel PaintShop Pro has been the budget alternative to Photoshop for Windows users for more than two decades, and it's still going strong. Supporting layers and allowing you to edit in both raster and vector image formats, as well as aping some of Photoshop's more advanced capabilities such as content-aware move, gradients, and filters, it has a lot to offer anyone who does photo-editing as part of their day-to-day job. 

The latest version includes some smart AI tools, including AI Background Replacement, AI Denoise, which removes noise from a picture, and AI Portrait Mode, which lets you select a subject and add background blur. It also adds support for the HEIC and HEIF file types used on iPhones.

Coastal images being edited in Lightroom

(Image credit: Adobe)

09. Adobe Lightroom

The best photo editing software for organisation.

Specifications

Platform: Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android
Developer: Adobe
Price: $9.99/£9.98 (per month)

Reasons to buy

+
Superior organisation tools
+
Complements Photoshop
+
Works across devices

Reasons to avoid

-
Editing tools slightly limited

While Adobe Lightroom has a lot of good photo editing tools, at heart it remains a tool for organising images. For that reason, it's a great choice for anyone working with large numbers of photos, such as photographers and designers, who'd normally use it in tandem with Photoshop. 

Lightroom helps you to organise your work by letting keep all of your photography in one place, edit it and share it from anywhere. You can store images on your computer, iPad, iPhone or Android device and even transfer photos automatically from your phone into Lightroom as you take them. 

And that's not all. It can also handle complicated image management jobs that Photoshop isn't designed for. For example, it makes light work of day-to-day enhancements and RAW files. Syncing is automatic, so when you make an edit or flag an image as a favourite in one place, it updates everywhere else too.

Check out our Adobe Lightroom review to learn more. 

Images of large steel frame being edited in Photoshop Elements

(Image credit: Adobe)

10. Photoshop Elements

The best photo editing software for beginners.

Specifications

Platform: Windows, MacOS, Linux
Developer: Adobe
Price: $99.99/£86.56

Reasons to buy

+
Easy to learn
+
Good AI tools
+
Subscription-free

Reasons to avoid

-
Not included in Creative Cloud

If you're just getting started with image editing, full Photoshop may be a bit too much of a learning curve. Instead, you'd be better off with Photoshop Elements; a more basic alternative to Photoshop. Its handy Quick and Guided Edit modes make it great for beginners, but that doesn't mean it lacks power. 

The 2021 version includes Auto Creations, a collage tool that scans and groups photos automatically or via the tagging and sorting tool Adobe Sensei. It also comes with a range of performance enhancements and upgrades. Best of all, it doesn't require a subscription: it's available for a one-off fee. On the flipside, that means you don't get it as part of a Creative Cloud subscription.

Dive in deeper with our full Photoshop Elements review

Images of coloured powers being edited in DxO Photolab

(Image credit: DxO Photolab)

11. DxO Photolab

The best RAW converter available.

Specifications

Platform: Windows, MacOS
Developer: DxO
Price: From $112/£129

Reasons to buy

+
Best for RAW conversion
+
Watermarking tool
+
Good for denoising images

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited features

Looking to convert RAW files? DxO PhotoLabis is the best in the business. It's a slightly complex tool to use, but it achieves impeccable results. You can browse images on your computer folder by folder, then select an image and choose from the default conversion/correction setting or a range of presets. 

The software offers lens corrections that automatically compensate for the different degrees of distortion, chromatic aberration, edge softness and vignetting that are common to most digital camera lenses. The results are outstanding, although note this is a specific tool, not a general photo editor.

Image of butterfly landing on woman's face being edited in Fotor

(Image credit: Fotor)

12. Fotor

Free photo editor for amateurs and enthusiasts.

Specifications

Platform: Web browser, Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android
Developer: Everimagining
Price: Free with in-app purchases

Reasons to buy

+
Simple interface
+
Free to use
+
Browser & app versions

Reasons to avoid

-
Not suitable for pros

Fotor is a free easy-to-use photo editing and graphic design tool, aimed at amateur photographers and design enthusiasts. There are mobile and desktop apps as well as an in-browser version, and you get a full suite of tools that should cover most people's needs. 

A one-tap enhance button aims to offer an instant fix, which will be loved by some and hated by others. A greater degree of control is offered via tools for resizing, cropping, rotating and straightening images. There's also a background remover and some handy retouching tools such as red-eye and wrinkle removal. There's even an HDR image creator and tilt-shift editor in case you're looking to turn your photos into something more dramatic.

Image of castle being edited in GIMP

(Image credit: GIMP)

13. GIMP

The best open-source photo editing software.

Specifications

Platform: Windows, MacOS, Linux
Developer: GIMP
Price: Free

Reasons to buy

+
Free
+
Open source
+
Huge community of users

Reasons to avoid

-
Not that user friendly

GIMP is another free photo editing tool, but this one is open source. That means it will be free forever, and there's an enthusiastic community of worldwide developers behind it, who are constantly working to improve it.

The software available for Linux, Windows and Mac, and offers a broad range of tools including painting tools, colour correction, cloning, selection, and enhancement. The team has worked hard to ensure compatibility, so you'll be able to work with all the popular file formats without problems. The software also boasts a very capable file manager built in, similar to Adobe's Bridge.

Check out our GIMP review to learn more. 

Image of coloured smoke being edited in Sumo Paint

(Image credit: Sumo Paint)

14. Sumo Paint

Another good in-browser photo editor.

Specifications

Platform: Web browser
Developer: Sumoware
Price: Free for basic online version

Reasons to buy

+
In browser editing

Reasons to avoid

-
Empty List

is another very capable browser-based image editor. It boasts all of the standard features you'd expect in a desktop tool – in fact, the includes the option to download a desktop version if you prefer. 

Tools include brushes, pencils, shapes, text, cloning and gradients, which can all be accessed quickly from a Photoshop-like floating toolbar. Sumo Paint can open saved documents from your hard drive, making it a viable option for editing and re-editing, and its latest upgrade gives it a slick look. There are significant limitations, though. The editor appears to be RGB only, limiting its use to work designed for screens. There are No CMYK, Lab or other colour models offered.

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Tom May

Tom May is an award-winning journalist and editor specialising in design, photography and technology. Author of the Amazon #1 bestseller , published by Pavilion Books, Tom was previously editor of Professional Photography magazine, associate editor at Creative Bloq, and deputy editor at net magazine. Today, he is a regular contributor to Creative Bloq and its sister sites , and . He also writes for Creative Boom and works on content marketing projects. 

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